Jacobs out of Boks' Tri-Nations opener

South Africa have made two enforced changes to the team that clinched a Test series against the British and Irish Lions for a Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

A groin injury ruled out centre Adrian Jacobs—his place goes to 2007 World Cup winner Jaque Fourie—while flanker Heinrich Brussow comes in for suspended Schalk Burger.

The reigning world champions edged the Lions 26-21 and 28-25 before a much-changed Bok team crumbled to a record-equalling 28-9 defeat in the final Test.

Coach Peter de Villiers came under media fire after the Ellis Park debacle, and has resorted to a strong, experienced, predictable line-up for their opening encounter of the southern hemisphere championship season.

Skipper John Smit continues as tighthead prop after vacating his hooker role to make way for Bismarck du Plessis. The front row is completed by hugely popular Zimbabwe-born Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira.

Multi-capped locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha picked themselves, as did the back row of flankers Juan Smith and Brussow and number eight Pierre Spies.

A backline comprising fullback Frans Steyn, wings JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, centres Fourie and Jean de Villiers, flyhalf Ruan Pienaar and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez was equally predictable.

But while coach De Villiers is a fully paid-up member of the Pienaar “fan club”, there will be pressure in the goal-kicking department on the inventive pivot and son of former Bok fullback Gysie.

Leading 2009 Super 14 points scorer Morne Steyn replaced Pienaar in the second Test against the Lions and landed the series-clinching penalty with the final kick of the match before his adoring Loftus Versfeld faithful.

Lock Andries Bekker was odd man out from the original 23-strong squad, failing to make the replacements bench that comprises the traditional mix of four forwards and three backs.

World Cup-winning squad member Danie Rossouw got the nod ahead of Bekker as the 38-cap hard man is more versatile, capable of performing at lock or in the back row.

New Zealand overcame a 10-point deficit to defeat Australia 22-16 in the first Tri-Nations fixture last weekend, with flyhalf Stephen Donald kicking five penalties and converting a Richie McCaw try.—AFP

Team: Frans Steyn; JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez; Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Heinrich Brussow; Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha; John Smit (captain), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Jannie du Plessis, Danie Rossouw, Ryan Kankowski, Ricky Januarie, Morne Steyn, Wynand Olivier


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